An episode of sickness is usually considered a hindrance, preventing one from doing much else than lying dormant and waiting for either health or death. Not so for the believers! Sickness, like all phases of man’s life, can be an opportunity to use the faculties (heart, tongue, etc.) Allah (swt) has blessed us with for earning His favour and gathering reward. Here are some suggestions:
Submission to Allah’s (swt) will
To begin with, it would be a good idea to refrain from complaining, as illness, just like health, is from Allah (swt). “No disaster strikes except by Allah’s (swt) permission, and whosoever believes in Allah (swt), He guides his heart. Allah (swt) is the Knower of all things.” (At-Taghabun 64:11)
Be patient and express submission to Allah’s (swt) will, for illness may be a test or a cleansing of sins, washing away the burden we carry into the Hereafter. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No Muslim is afflicted with harm because of sickness or some other inconvenience, but that Allah (swt) will remove his sins for him as a tree sheds its leaves.” (Bukhari)
Have good thoughts and expectations from Allah (swt)
Thinking cheerful thoughts always helps to alleviate misery; moreover, we have been cautioned: “None of you should die without having good expectations in Allah (swt).” (Muslim)
Fear, hope, and repentance
Through our lives, we must fear Allah’s (swt) punishment for our sins; therefore, repent from them and hope for His Mercy, especially in times of sickness. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) once pointed out to a dying man: “The two (fear and hope) cannot come together in a man’s heart at such a time without Allah (swt) giving him what he hopes for and granting him security from what he fears.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Reading the Quran and other Islamic books
Sickness brings a halt to one’s usual time-consuming activities; thus, this is a good time to read and reflect upon the Quran. Contemplating on Allah’s (swt) Words brings a person closer to his Creator, and this in itself can be a source of healing: “We sent down of the Quran that which is a healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.” (Al-Isra 17:82) Reading Islamic books furthers our understanding of Allah’s (swt) decree.
Dhikr and supplications
Dhikr and supplications demonstrate our conviction that only Allah (swt) is the One capable of helping us. These are the means for strengthening one’s ties with Allah (swt) and placing our affairs in His Hands. Various forms of Dhikr and supplications are recommended in the Quran and Hadeeth, which aid in bringing an ailing person into the company of Allah (swt) as the Prophet (sa) has said that Allah (swt) says: “I am with My servant, when he remembers Me and his lips move to mention Me.” (Ahmad)
Do not ask for death
Regardless of how severe one’s sickness may be, a person should never ask for death. Allah’s Messenger (sa) admonished: “So do good to your best ability, and let none of you wish for death: if he is righteous, he may have; and if he is a sinner, he may have a chance to repent.” (Bukhari)
However, we can ask Allah (swt) to bless us with the rank of a martyr: “(He) Who sought martyrdom with sincerity will be ranked by Allah (swt) among the martyrs, even if he died on his bed.” (Muslim)
“Cleanliness is half of faith.” (Muslim) An ailing person should endeavor to keep his body and clothing, as clean as he is able. If water is unavailable or harmful for the ailing person, other items can be used (tissues, cotton pads, leaves, etc.), to cleanse away impurities (pus, urine, feces, etc.). Similarly, in the case of Wudu, a person may perform Tayammum. Bleeding from a wound does not invalidate Wudu; during battles the companions of the Prophet (sa) maintained Salah, despite their wounds. Moreover, a nice wash can be refreshing, aiding in recovery and preventing further illness.
Maintaining ritual acts of worship
All ritual acts of worship carry their own reward. Hence, it is essential that they are not neglected during illness, or (as in the case of Salah) delayed, because one is “just not feeling up to it.” The Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Pray standing; if you cannot, pray sitting; if you cannot, pray on your side.” (Bukhari)
Though the ailing is exempted from fasting, missed obligatory fasts must be made up, when health returns. If the sickness is chronic, we have been instructed to feed one poor person per fast.
“So, whoever among you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. As for those who can afford it, they have to offer a ransom by feeding a poor person (for every day).” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)
Increase good deeds
Use sickness as a chance to increase in good deeds by giving charity, maintaining good manners with those around you, and allowing visitors to come see you (which bestows reward for both them and you). The Prophet (sa) has said: “The secret Sadaqah (charity) extinguishes the Lord’s anger; preserving the ties of kinship increases the life span; and rendering good to people protects from evil fatalities.” (Baihaqi)
Additionally, a good word can save a person from the fire (Bukhari); accordingly, advise your family to do good, as Allah (swt) has said: “They believe in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, they enjoin good and forbid evil and rush in emulating each other in good deeds. These are the righteous people.” (Al-Imran 3:114)
These are just a few acts to be kept in mind for productively using a period of illness to expand one’s reserve of good deeds, acquire more rewards, and rise in the ranks of the righteous, Insha’Allah.